Dose of Humor & Candied Cashews

It’s infrequent that I attempt to delve into humor- or anything too poignantly personal- as the Terrified Tastebud. I don’t have a particularly profound reason. And I don’t have cable television at the moment, but I’m still pretty positive there’s a reality show (or fifty) out there that have much higher entertainment potential than my daily musings.

So breathe a sigh of relief… I’ll only dip my toes gingerly into humor today. And, of course, it has EVERYTHING to do with FOOD! You can even have some darn good cashews for snacking as you laugh if you have the very short list of ingredients and a few spare minutes. Feel free to jump now to SweetSourMoments‘ perfect Honey Sesame Roasted Cashew recipe and skip the rest of the dialogue. I promise I won’t mind a bit. Shoot… I won’t even know ;).

It’s been a little over a year that I’ve been a single adult, and the realization has struck me that sharing food from my kitchen has somehow become incredibly complicated. I’m not really sure how this happened.

I love to bake and cook (usually in that order) and generally end up in the kitchen when I’m sad or happy or stressed or excited or it’s raining and I can’t play outside. So, yes. Often. And unfortunately I lack a healthy serving of self control when it comes to sweets particularly. So I give food away. To neighbors. Coworkers. Sometimes random places where I do business. I love it.

Usually people are pretty glad to see me coming with a warm treat. And that’s still primarily the case. Most of my neighbors are happily paired couples and sharing with them is risk-free. Perfect!

But the entertaining twist has become apparent with single men. Of all ages much to my surprise. One of my neighbors is a young guy in his mid-twenties I’m guessing, and he seems to be hanging in a post-fraternity stage of life. That’s ok by me. As long as he eats; which he does. He’s had fresh bread stuffed in his mailbox, cookies, pies (not in the mailbox), candies… but I think it’s taken a full six months for him to realize I’m not the crazy condo lady, a decade his senior, trying to score a date. Really?

The other end of the spectrum was a gentleman at least twenty years my senior who misinterpreted my cookies. After a couple dinners that I thought were friendly gestures, I realized I’d given quite the wrong idea. Frick.

Just in the last week I’m fairly certain I’ve scared away a new friend- my age this time- by sharing one of my kitchen creation staples. Oops. He mentioned he ate this particular item almost everyday, so I figured he’s pretty close to an expert, right? I was curious how my own version compared to what he buys locally.

It felt innocent to me, but I’m just getting used to this new food-sharing phenomenon. My Maman always said “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” but now I’m wondering how to localize only to the stomach. Just stomach for now would be brilliant. Maybe she’ll have some words of wisdom here. Or perhaps you will? Have you ever scared someone with food?

Maybe I should write disclaimers to accompany the treats…

But enough of the food fear… if these little pics of cashews I made this afternoon have you tempted, check out the recipe here by SweetSourMoments. Her instructions are absolutely spot on. I used a silicone baking mat instead of foil to minimize stickiness, and if you’re an I-like-it-hot person, feel free to add a little cayenne.

And I just can’t help myself, but… tied up in a cute little bag they’d be a perfect little food share with a neighbor. Disclaimer attached~

Date-free social success

In addition to eating and drinking my way through copious amounts of wine and food the other night, it was a socially productive evening as well. No, I didn’t score a date with a single, tall, handsome, cycling foodie. Some of my close friends: I realize this may disappoint you. But it doesn’t disappoint me in the least- it was actually incredible to savor every bite, taking notes, being a geek all by myself.

Not sure if it was due to my note-taking throughout the meal, if I was mistaken for a real food writer, or if I just looked like I needed company… but whatever the case, Orlando Pecchenino came over to chat about his wines with me. And once he realized I was truly interested, he stayed. He gave me his card and brochures detailing the winery and vineyards in Dogliani of northwestern Italia dating back to the late 1700s- in his family the entire time.

He explained why the 2005 Barolo- the rave of the evening among most diners- actually wasn’t one of its better years due to colder temperatures than he prefers, and that I’d like the 2000 and 2007 years much better because they were warmer. The wines are more delicate and not quite as robust– I think this was the word his Italian brain was trying to retrieve. They’d be easier to drink without demanding a bold food for balance. It sounded good to me, and I could listen to a cute older Italian man talk all day.

The waitstaff was equally as attentive, and handled my questions in stride. I have a fear of being that guy who asks so many questions trying to appear knowledgable it becomes irritating. I think I pulled it off as I’m quite sure they didn’t mistake me as being too knowledgeable.

And it looks as if I might be on a decent track to learn more from Frasca’s talented team. I ended up being able to meet and chat with the chef of the evening about working with them for my stage- fancy food term for basically an internship- as part of my culinary training. Huge leap forward in my journey of food.

And so much better than scoring a date.

Everyone should eat mussels with Ramen noodles

Today will be short and sweet, and that is entirely because I have sweet neighbors. Though they’re not particularly short. They’re quite normally sized actually, and they love food as much as I do!

I planned to post today about a Pecchenino wine pairing dinner I was fortunate enough to enjoy last night at Frasca Food and Wine. I sat by myself- which was not nearly as difficult as I’d expected- and took notes on every flavor, aroma… every nuance of texture. In a little grey notebook. But the notes will still be here as I write tomorrow.

Today I’m grateful for the ‘little things’ that are sometimes huge. Like mussels to go with my dinner of Ramen. And friends when I sometimes feel alone. Yes, I do still eat Ramen: the twenty-cents-a-package kind.

And I made them tonight for several reasons. One, I feel slightly guilty over the cost of last night’s splurge (though worth every cent). Two, they’re quick and I still want to get my article finished. And third, I actually don’t mind them. Not too much anyway.

But the couple next door texted me just as I stirred the powdered packet of poultry into my boiling noodle bliss. They have mussels. Extra mussels. He’s starting them now- two whole pounds of them.

White wine, shallots, garlic, parsley… and perfectly executed bivalves. And of course some crusty bread for soaking. No expensive ticket, Italian winemaker or celebrity chef/sommelier. But another priceless dinner. And even better company.

Can life get any better than meat jello?

Ever since I read Julie & Julia, long before the movie was made, I’ve been somewhat skeptical about aspic. Somehow, wrapping my head around cold, gelatinous meat juice has presented some challenges.

Pate en Croute, complete with chimney for pouring in warm aspic to fill any holes

You see, aspic has classical French roots and is a topic impossible to omit when learning French cooking technique. Aspic is traditionally a clarified stock containing enough natural gelatin- though additional is often added- to form a semi-solid when cooled.

Meat jello.

It can be warmed and brushed to coat cold food items, or it can be molded into shapes with items suspended in it. Keeps getting better, doesn’t it?

learning to stuff and link our sausage

Our chef instructor understands that veal jello with suspended celery bits probably won’t grace most American restaurant menus. So he has wisely given us ideas for more modern or palatable uses for this classic technique.

Imagine a clear, sweet carrot aspic, thickened with vegan agar agar, studded with tiny, artistically cut, arranged root vegetables in a myriad of colors… molded into petite cylinders and neatly tied around with a thin, fresh chive. Now that could be fun!

caramelized onion and cheese frittata for breakfast

We’ve spent the last two days in class preparing all sorts of cold forcemeat dishes- chicken galantines, duck pate en croute, pork and liver terrines- that will be… deep breath… coated in chicken aspic today and eaten. Sausage has also made its way onto today’s menu and will probably be the star of the meal for most. But I’ve made a caramelized onion frittata this morning so I won’t be starving the rest of the day. You know, just in case.

Haiku tribute to the egg

Breakfast cookery continues to morph from scones, crepes, biscuits and soufflés into everything egg. Yes, the incredible edible egg.

yesterday's eggs benedict, sandwiched between potatoes

I remember a small book by that name on my mother’s kitchen book shelf in the late 1980s. If any hen knew the tortuous course of fame and disdain that her poor egg has undergone even just in my lifetime, I’m sure she’d think twice about surrendering her daily offering quite so easily.

But the debate has unfolded. Eggs are the epitome of perfect nutrition and are one of the most versatile tools in professional and home kitchens alike. News breakthrough: eggs are high in cholesterol and should be avoided at all costs. But the lecithin in eggs actually may help reduce unhealthy lipid levels in the body. And an entire market of ‘healthy’ egg substitutes has firmly established itself…

sunny side up

An entire blog site could- and probably is- devoted to this discussion, and I have absolutely no desire to go there. Suffice it to say that eggs, as most things, have a rightful place in a world tempered with moderation. Plenty of people like an egg, or a few, for breakfast. And I’ll be graded on preparing perfect eggs this afternoon… so here we go.

poached- intact but runny, warm yolk

I have six eggs from which to prepare four perfect ones to present to my instructor for a grade: one poached, a sunny side up, an over easy, and a one-egg French omelet. Perfect means many things today: runny but warm yolks- intact upon presentation of course, fully cooked whites with absolutely no color (browning) or bubbling, carefully triple folded omelet in a perfect French baguette shape, a poach that is visually appealing (is that possible?)…

French omelet- should have no browning 🙂

Pressure is on, so I’ve decided to lighten the mood with haiku tributes to the egg. Partly inspired by a fellow blogger- blissful adventurer, who has cleverly dubbed ‘Haiku Sundays’ in which he posts a haiku related to his love of Italy and food- and also motivated by my fascination with these Japanese-rooted verses since the fourth grade.

Mrs. Lang’s class at Clay Elementary to be exact. I was a dorky tween, but I loved the haiku from the moment she assigned us to write one: a basic verse, which doesn’t have to rhyme, containing a 5-7-5 syllable pattern. I’ve since learned it’s actually much more complex than that. But for today we’ll stay simple.

French Omelet

Classic French omelet

Trifold into cigar shape,

Barely moist inside

Sunny Side Up

No flipping this gem

Only set the white; demands

Patience and low heat

Poached

Hot water vortex;

Egg gently dropped in center

Liquid gold; firm white

Over Easy

Yolk near pan’s handle

Travels its unbroken course

With one quick wrist flip

Bring on graded egg cookery! Perhaps I’ll have more photos to add tonight… passes or failures- we’ll see 🙂

over easy

Addendum… little brown on my omelet from a slightly too hot pan, but overall an egg success. 91% I’ll take it 🙂